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Department of Computer Science and Technology

Research Projects

Computational Governance and Majoritarianism (CoGMa)

In these workshops, we invite researchers to explore majoritarian assumptions built into the design of computer systems. Proceedings from the workshop are published in special editions of the Data & Policy journal.

Important Upcoming Dates for CoGMa 2022

All deadlines are 23:59:59 Anywhere on Earth (UTC-12)

  • Submission deadline: October 8, 2022
  • Rebuttal period: October 13-20, 2022
  • Author notification: October 22, 2022
  • CoGMa Workshop: November 3, 2022, 2pm UK

The 2022 workshop will be held in Cambridge, with remote access available for presenters and attendees.

Interested in joining us at the CoGMa 2022 workshop? Upload a 1-2 page talk outline, or a draft of your journal article, using our submission form.


Existing consensus systems are designed with implicit majoritarian assumptions. The commonly used term in consensus literature for a small group with dissenting opinions is adversary. This is particularly problematic when viewed through the lens of recent proposals to move governance structures to, for instance, blockchain-based systems which have majoritarian assumptions built into their design and operation.

There are some protections provided in social, political, and commercial governance structures for those with dissenting opinions via a system of minority rights, protected freedoms, and other checks and balances. If we are to design computational systems that meet the requirements of real-world institutions, we need to ensure that we preserve or improve upon the protections offered in existing systems. Majoritarian consensus gets in the way of achieving this goal: in their ideal instantiation, a set of nodes (the majority) have all the decision-making power while the remaining nodes have no ability to cause those decisions to be renegotiated. This fundamental problem is further exacerbated in other computational systems (e.g. centralised systems), where the issue is often obfuscated by wrapping the computational system in layers of rough human consensus.

Existing institutional protections are far from perfect, highlighting the difficulty of the problem, but this reveals more acutely the current lack of research into this area on the computational side.

This workshop - which will lead to a special collection of articles in Data & Policy, a peer-reviewed open access journal published by Cambridge University Press - aims to raise awareness of the issue and seeks answers to some fundamental questions about computational governance.

Questions we are interested in

  • What are good measures for majoritarianism in a governance system?

  • What can technologists learn from other systems of governance?

  • What advances in computer science would be required for computational systems to be useful in important affairs like human governance?

  • Conversely, are there technologies that policy makers can use to improve existing systems?

  • What might historical governance and legal protections look like from a computational point of view?

  • What does current computational governance look like through the lens of philosophy, political theory, or legal theory?

  • How can legal protections be incorporated into computational systems, and how can unwanted legal risks to those systems be mitigated?

  • What do human rights (and perhaps non-human rights) look like in the digital domain?

The answers to these questions lie at the intersection of fundamental computer science, policy making, jurisprudence and human rights. We invite submissions on the theme of Challenging Majoritarian Assumptions in Computational Governance from all these domains.

Data & Policy

Authors have the option of participating in a special collection on computational governance in Data & Policy, a peer-reviewed open access journal at the interface of data science and governance, published by Cambridge University Press.

The two reviews conducted for the workshop will be considered as part of the Data & Policy peer review process - expediting the process in comparison with a regular submission - with the journal reserving the right to seek an additional review to ensure that the paper has had input from data / methodological and policy perspectives.

Authors participating in the workshop interested in submitting to Data & Policy are encouraged to familiarise themselves with the Instructions for Authors in advance of submission to the journal. We anticipate that interested authors will develop their workshop papers into full research articles, but the Data & Policy team can be contacted if you have any questions.

Note that the journal provides LaTeX and Word templates to assist authors with the structure of papers. Data & Policy asks all authors to provide a Data Availability Statement with the submission and encourages, but does not require, authors to make underlying data and replication materials available via an open repository.

The final set of articles will be presented on a curated page on the Data & Policy website, with an introduction from the Guest Editors.

CoGMa 2021

Our inaugural CoGMa workshop was a lovely event full of lovely people, ideas, and conversation. Thank you to all of our presenters, session chairs, and volunteers for making this happen.

13:00 BST Introduction to the workshop by Jon Crowcroft
13:05 - 13:55 Session 1:
Chair - Jon Crowcroft
Paper 1 - Reuben Binns: Problems of Majoritarian Labelling in Machine Learning Datasets
Paper 2 - Mansoor Ahmed-Rengers, D. R. Toliver, Hazem Danny Nakib: Majoritarianism and Monoculture (M&M)

13:55 - 14:00 Break

14:00 - 14:50 Session 2:
Chair - Hazem Danny Nakib
Paper 1 - Dr. Ann Sofie Cloots: DeFi Governance: Majority rule, agency costs and minority protection
Paper 2 - Caroline Wilson: Computational Governance and lessons from Corporate Governance history: new wine in old bottles vs other ways of addressing the stakeholder and fiduciary challenge

14:50 - 15:00 Break

15:00 - 15:50 Session 3:
Chair - Mansoor Ahmed-Rengers
Paper 1 - Carlos Molina-Jimenez, Sandra Milena Felizia: On the use of smart hybrid contract to provide flexibility in algorithmic governance
Paper 2 - Geoff Goodell: The Forgotten Preconditions for a Well Functioning Internet

15:50 - 16:00 Break

16:00 - 16:50 Session 4:
Chair - D. R. Toliver
Paper 1 - Miranda Mowbray: A non-majoritarian system from 13thC Venice
Paper 2 - Shamil Khedgikar: Dynamics of Data Democratization in India: Pathways, Processes and Products
16:50 -  Concluding remarks, open-ended networking